The rise of interdisciplinary engineering skills

The rise of interdisciplinary engineering skills

Are you a college student preparing for a career in engineering? Or are you a working professional looking to give your career a boost? 

If you’ve answered, “Yes!” to either of these questions, you might want to invest some time and resources in acquiring some additional skills. Here’s why. 

New in-demand skills

One of the key trends of 2019 is the increased demand for engineers with interdisciplinary skill sets. In other words, employers want engineers who possess traditional engineering skills as well as IT-related automation, embedded software and analytical skills. In his article titled “Why Scientists and Engineers Must Learn Programming” for Communications of the ACM, Philip Guo explains that these types of programming skills allow engineering professionals to work much faster and be more creative. 

For example, as the Henry Harvin Education article “Benefits of Analytics Skills for Mechanical Engineers” on Medium reports, engineers who possess the ability to analyze big data sets can subsequently apply their findings to their engineering problems. Many employers also want engineers who understand the financial investment needed to create a solution — and who have insights into the ROI it offers, as Larry Desjardin points out in his article “Engineers Should Study Finance: 5 Reasons Why” for the EE Times. 

Three key drivers

There are three reasons why it’s becoming more important for new graduates and entry-level engineers to possess these interdisciplinary skill sets. First, manufacturing is changing due to the rapid advancement of technology, the advent of Industry 4.0 and the rise of the Internet of Things. Areas such as machine learning, machine vision, data collection and analytics are playing a greater role. As such, it’s becoming increasingly important for engineers to have the ability to apply engineering concepts using C++, Python or another programming language. 

Second, as Sam Davis highlights in his article “How Will the U.S. Replace Its Aging Engineering Workforce?” for Power Electronics, STEM book knowledge is not enough. Many key engineering skills and strengths are honed on the job in a hands-on role, rather than through higher levels of education. Engineers today can help their careers by entering the workforce before pursuing any Master’s-level education. 

And third, whereas engineering used to be about siloed teams each doing their individual piece on a project, it’s becoming more about taking a holistic approach to a solution. That requires engineers who can look at a problem from a variety of angles and take every aspect into account — including finances. 

A look over the horizon

Looking ahead to the rest of 2019 and beyond, interdisciplinary engineers will remain in high demand. One significant reason for this will be the adoption of 5G technology. As the AT&T Business Editorial Team points out in the article “How 5G will revolutionize manufacturing,” next-gen 5G networks are expected to provide the foundation for smart factories — or factories where connected machines use sensors to monitor their environments and have the ability to interoperate with each other. 

According to Verizon’s article “How 5G can transform the factory floor,” by 2035, 22 million jobs will be added worldwide and global GDP growth will see an increase of $3 trillion as a result of adopting 5G networks. Clearly, this will lead to many opportunities for engineers who possess the right combination of skill sets. 

How to acquire interdisciplinary skills

It’s important to understand that the majority of employers are looking for engineers who both hold a BS and possess hands-on experience. That way, they don’t have to pay for additional training. And this is where taking on a temporary role or a short-term contract can be a smart move, as it enables you to broaden your horizon to other skillsets that are needed in your field. In addition, it allows you to gain valuable experience that you can use to advance your career.



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